There was a scene in Twin Peaks, when Dale had a vision of the giant come to him at the local bar. All the giant kept saying was, “It is happening again.” It’s terrifying and disruptive; the whole place feels it, even though they didn’t see what Dale saw. That’s how I feel right now.
I’ve got two songs here: one I’ve posted a couple of times in response to horrific violence; the other is the one true thing I know, which everyone needs to remember now and always. Here’s hoping I don’t have to post either one again any time soon.
I’ve posted a few songs more than once, and not just because I reposted something. Some songs are so wonderful, so resonant, that they bear repeated listening. And some are just relevant to what’s going on in the world. They fit my mood, whether it be angry or sad, hopeful or depressed.
I’m still angry and upset about what’s been going on in France the last few days. I know I’m not the only one, and my rage at the carnage at Charlie Hebdo is nothing compared to what those who worked there and the victims’ families must be feeling right now. But I saw on PBS Newshour the other night that 2014 was one of the most dangerous years in recent times for journalists. Hundreds have been imprisoned or killed because they were simply trying to report the news. Most of them were killed in conflict zones, where the wars and repression are happening. But the attack on the satirical French weekly shows that anyone with a pen or a camera is at risk.
France has had a lot of issues lately with immigration and Islamophobia. (And doesn’t it just suck that we had to coin a word to describe the fear of a particular religion?) There’s been civil unrest in the country for some time now, and it finally boiled over into this barbarous act. Now right wing nut jobs over there are going to use this as leverage to try and get xenophobia and discrimination legalized. And that’s going to lead to more trouble and unrest. And on and on in a vicious cycle.
I feel like it’s trite to say that the only way to end all this violence and hatred is with love–partly because that isn’t the whole truth. It begins with love, as well as tolerance, understanding, knowledge. We need to ignore any politician or religious zealot that tells us the problem is some other group or ideology, and that we can solve the problem by banning that group or ideology. We need to stop being afraid. We need to stop listening to anyone who preaches fear or hatred. And then we need to help each other–food, clothing, money, education. Stop dropping bombs on people and start dropping books. Maybe if we really started listening to each other, we might learn that nobody is really that different.
I don’t know. I’m getting a little ranty, so I should probably stop. But I want this song to stop being relevant. And the only way to do that is to play it again.
The other night was kind of rough on me. I just couldn’t stop crying. I was doing some laundry–towels, mostly–and I tossed my dad’s jacket in there so I could put it in the bag I’m gathering for donation. It was the one thing of his that didn’t make it into the big donation I made a week or two ago. (Except for a flannel shirt that he never wore because it was too big; I claimed that for myself.) Well, I took it out so I could fold it and put it in the bag . . . but I just couldn’t. I turned into a sobbing wreck instead. It felt so final, like I was discarding him completely. It feels like I’ve wiped all traces of him from the house. It’s not true. I’m keeping his cane and Egyptian knickknacks, maybe a few of his books. I’ve got some old videotapes to go through to figure out which one is some old home movies (he thoughtfully labeled the one with the races of his favorite horse, Sunday Silence). But I’ve been cleaning and changing so much, with plans for new floors and paint looming. So I hung the jacket in the closet I just cleaned out. It’ll go eventually; it’s in good shape, and I know someone will appreciate having it. But I’m not quite ready.
Anyway, this Bruce Cockburn song seems to fit my melancholy mood (warning: the video contains one or two kind of disturbing animal images). The only thing that made me feel better the other night was checking to see if the Yankees won (they did); I’m thinking I might have to do that again tonight.
Last time I posted about Bruce Cockburn, it was in angry response to the still ongoing, ever more brutal civil war in Syria. Cockburn wrote most of the songs on 1984’s Stealing Fire after he made a trip to Central America and witnessed firsthand the horrors that many, many people there were suffering. Horrors that continue today in other countries. Horrors that will occur in other places in the future. It seems like no matter where you go, there is some megalomaniac monster who thinks it’s okay to bomb/poison/torture/rape/destroy/burn anyone who looks at him cross-eyed. *sigh*
I looked at the headlines on my Yahoo! homepage today, and saw this, and my heart cheered a little. There is some justice in the world. It might not be perfect, but at some point, somewhere, these bastards will get what they deserve. Even if it isn’t in a courtroom, even if the punishment is only cosmic, the Universe will catch up with them. (I wonder just how many times Hitler has been reincarnated as a bug only to get smashed. He’s got millions and millions and millions of lives to make up for, after all.) Violence only begets more violence, and the only way to really fight back is to love.
I referred to this song in my other Cockburn post because it’s how I got introduced to his music. Of course, U2 helped with that. In “God Part II” on Rattle & Hum, Bono sings about hearing this song: “I heard a singer on the radio, late last night. Says he’s gonna kick the darkness ’till it bleeds daylight.” I was entranced by the lyricism and power of those words. It is an amazing truth. Because the only way to fight darkness is to expose it to light. Love conquers hate, forgiveness trumps revenge, silence only ends when somebody speaks up. I get very pessimistic about humanity on a pretty regular basis; people just seem to can’t help hurting each other. But then one good thing happens. Some firefighters rescue some kittens from inside a wall. A man on the street helps a kidnapped woman escape. A dog alerts his person to a fire, and she runs back in to rescue him when she realizes he didn’t run out with her. Yeah, there’s always gonna be assholes who shoot people for their iPhones. Yeah, there’s always gonna be politicians who ignore their constituents and vote to fill their own wallets. Yeah, bad things are going to happen. And sometimes it feels like all you hear about are the bad things. But then a train conductor stops a commuter train to rescue the dog that got tied to the tracks.*
“When you’re lovers in a dangerous time, sometimes you’re made to feel as if your love’s a crime. But nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight. Got to kick at the darkness ’till it bleeds daylight.”
*All the specific stories I refer to are actual news stories, mostly local to SoCal. Although I’m pretty sure at least one of them is kind of familiar to folks right now.
I was watching the news today (I really gotta stop doing that; it just depresses me), and there was a story about another massacre in Syria. While there is no outside confirmation, I would bet that it’s true. Assad, the “president” of Syria, is unrepentant in the brutality he’s using to hold on to power. My father says he’s not going to have any country to rule soon because he’ll have murdered them all. My only thought is that when he is brought down by Syrian rebels–and he will be brought down eventually–there will not be enough of him left to bury. They will tear him to shreds, and while I do not approve of death penalties or execution, I cannot conceive of anything else. It has been too bloody, too awful, for anything else. It’s like the revolution in Romania a couple of decades ago. There just isn’t any other way out.
Music and politics have always gone hand in hand. I call Bruce Cockburn the Last of the Red Hot Protest Singers. He isn’t, of course; many musicians still put their money and their music where their mouth is (anyone heard Springsteen’s latest?). But I’ve always associated Cockburn with his political songs. (He has also written some of the most achingly beautiful love songs I’ve had the pleasure of hearing.) Maybe it’s because the first song I ever heard by him was “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” from Stealing Fire. Many of the songs on that were written about the political and civil wars of Central America, partially fought and funded by U.S. resources, during the 1970s and 80s. The horror and slaughter of those years should be unimaginable. Except for all the other horror and slaughter that’s occurred pretty much everywhere else in the world pretty much since the beginning of recorded history. (I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: People suck.) This album also launched one of the best angry songs ever. Anger that is, in this case, righteous. It is about the atrocities in Guatemala, but it is sadly relevant today.
I want this song to go out of style. I want no one to ever, ever, ever have to feel this way again. I want war to end.
But that’s not going to happen. It’s the actions of monsters like Assad that make people think picking up a rocket launcher is the only choice they have. And when he’s gone, there will be another one in another country to take his place. Another monster who thinks its his right to murder anyone who disagrees with him.
Wow, this song really does piss me off. Maybe it’s time to go listen to something cheerful.